Simple ways you can live a long, healthy life like the Japanese

Japanese lifestyle tips for longevity

It is no secret that the Japanese live long, healthy lives. While the average life expectancy across the world is 72.6 years, in Japan it is 84.6 years. So how do the Japanese do it? Is there a formula or an approach to life that helps them live not just longer but healthier?

The fact is that the Japanese have imbibed a particular lifestyle as part of their existence. Maintaining good health is something that everybody in Japan learns at a young age. Japanese children are taught to eat a good diet, exercise daily and maintain good hygiene. Here are 10 tips from the Japanese which we too can incorporate for a healthier, longer life.

 

  • Balanced diet

 

While all of us know this, the Japanese lifestyle is built around it. You will find very few fast-food chains in Japan! Though some exist, they do not dominate the food options and avenues. Whether at home or at restaurants, the Japanese eat well-proportioned, nutritious meals. They respect the food of the land and pay their respect and tributes to the one who has prepared the meal. As such, there is a mindful and conscious way of eating that nourishes the body, keeping it healthy. Added to this the Japanese make it a point to always eat fresh ingredients. Seaweed (nori) which is an essential part of the Japanese diet is very low-calorie and high in proteins.

Tip: Split your meal into smaller plates (portion sizes) like the Japanese and you will be consuming a diet that is adequate and nutritious. The formula: One soup, three sides.

 

  • The philosophy of Ikigai

 

Simply translated, Ikigai means “the reason for being”. The Ikigai philosophy is ingrained into the Japanese way of life. Ikigai teaches us that life begins on a blank canvas and motivates one to find his or her purpose in life. It is divided into four core areas – a) what we are good at b) what we love c) what the world needs d0 what we can be paid for. This association with life purpose and mortality is found by researchers to increase longevity. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found a positive correlation between having a purpose of life and a decreased mortality rate. Generations of Japanese have believed and practised Ikigai and have been leading a sustained, fulfilling and healthier life.

 

  • Eat until you are almost full

 

Hara hachi bu – In Japanese, it literally means “eat until you are 80% full”. One has some room left in the stomach after a meal. This creation of “space” is very healthy for overall well-being.  This kind of mindful eating makes you conscious of the amount of food you are eating and prevents excess or overeating.


Tip: It will help to ask yourself before a meal “How hungry am I?

 

  • Forest Bathing – An excellent nature therapy

 

Shinrin-yoku which means “forest bathing” in Japanese is literally soaking yourself in the environment of a forest. One purposefully turns one mind into the essential elements of nature in a forest, heightening the senses to the nuances of nature – the smell of grass, the feel of the gentle breeze, the rustle of leaves, touching the barks of trees, feeling the warmth of the sunlight etc. It relaxes the mind and is equivalent to meditation. Forest walking is proven to lower blood pressure, lower cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase parasympathetic nervous activity which has an overall calming effect. 

Tip: If there is no forest nearby, you can try this method in any natural setting and it’s bound to rejuvenate!

 

  • Have strong social bonds

 

Isolation has a very negative impact on health. The Japanese give importance to and focus on building a strong social circle which is the reason they enjoy physical and emotional well-being right up to their old age! Most Japanese keep themselves occupied with work right past their retirement because of their emphasis on social integration.


Tip: Always make time to talk to family and friends and keep in touch in whatever way you can. Conversations and friendships are essential for well-being.

 

  • Culture of regular health screening

 

Other than following a unique approach to life, the secret of Japanese longevity also lies in their practice of regular health screening. It’s one thing to be health conscious but quite another to make annual health screening a part of our lifestyle. With regular screening, the Japanese are able to get clarity on their general state of health and also able to detect lifestyle diseases and critical illnesses like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and COPD earlier, which means greater chances of recovery and resuming a normal life.

Tip: Include annual health screening as a mandatory part of your life. Most of the time, prevention is the cure and earlier detection is the way to a healthier life.